8 of the best Christmas markets to visit around the world
Do Christmas the Finnish way in Helsinki, go skating in ice rinks in Seattle, visit the singing Christmas tree in Zurich or closer to home grab some gift bargains in Birmingham
Zagreb is Often voted the best Christmas market destination. Photograph: Julien Duval
1. Zagreb, Croatia
Gift-buying is just one facet of the Yuletide celebrations in Zagreb, which is often voted the best Christmas-market destination. From November 30th to January 7th, Jelacic Square transforms with chalets, light displays, live choirs and an ice rink. Nearby, the hip Fuliranje (“fooling around”) market – with DJs and high-end Croatian cuisine – could put the Christmas spirit into the Scroogiest of personalities.
Where to stay Hotel Jägerhorn is comfy, cool and a few minutes’ walk from the heart of the Christmas action. Doubles from €234.
Get there Croatia Airlines has return flights from Dublin to Zagreb from €242.
2. Birmingham, England
With a favourable exchange rate, there’s a bargain to be had in England, and its second city trumps many of the rest when it comes to Christmas. From November 7th to December 23rd at Victoria Square (with an added craft market on Centenary Square), Birmingham calls its event “the largest authentic German market outside Germany and Austria”.
Where to stay The boutique Penta Hotel, with an appealing bar and restaurant, is a 10-minute walk away. Doubles from £68.
Get there Ryanair has return flights from Dublin to Birmingham from €41. SG
3. Tromsø, Norway
Home to the world’s northernmost university, Tromsø has long been a go-to location for chasing the Northern Lights, and there’s an added curiosity in December as the city plunged into perpetual darkness. This year it’s bringing a Christmas market to the main street of Storgata. Expect craft stalls next to food stalls next to warming-drink stalls. Santa’s bound to appear – and his reindeer will be real.
Where to stay Get your fill of Scandi chic at Ishavshotel, near the market. Doubles from €111.
Get there Norwegian Air Shuttle flies from Dublin to Tromsø via Oslo from €245.
4. Helsinki, Finland
Do Christmas the Finnish way in Helsinki. From December 1st to 22nd, visit snow-topped Christmas markets in Aleksanterinkatu, drink glögi – made of spiced wine, vodka, almonds and raisins – and keep warm at a Finnish sauna. The city has 58 ice rinks, so skaters are spoilt for choice.
Where to stay Treat yourself at Hotel St George, one of Helsinki’s plushest abodes, in an 1840s building. Doubles from €220.
Get there Finnair has return flights from Dublin to Helsinki from €171.
5. Brussels, Belgium
The European capital comes alive at Christmas, as regular sound and light shows animate the ornate buildings of the Grand-Place, and 200 chalets cram into every spare centimetre of its cobbled centre. This year there’s a new emphasis on tech installations, with art projected on to facades of key buildings, and a domed tent featuring 360-degree shows. Add the obligatory Belgian frites, waffles and chocolate, and you’re on to a winner.
Where to stay Hotel Indigo is Brussels’ newest, with state-of-the-art rooms in a prime location. Doubles from €134.
Get there Ryanair has return flights from Dublin to Brussels from €34.
6. Munich, Germany
The Bavarian city may have just recovered from Oktoberfest, but it does Christmas markets with aplomb. Marienplatz is the heart of the action, with the gothic Old City Hall a magnificent backdrop, but you’ll find clusters of festive scenes and chalets across the walkable city. Although mostly traditional, its vegetarian food stalls and queer Christmas market prove it’s also open to modernity.
Where to stay Splurge at Beyond by Geisel – if not for the decadent rooms with Aesop toiletries, then for the cocktail bar overlooking Marienplatz. Doubles from €380.
Get there Ryanair flies Dublin to Munich from €66 return. SG
7. Seattle, United States
Far away from Europe, Seattle’s Enchant festival, from November 22nd to December 29th, veers away from the traditional Christmas market. Instead, its second year brings together 70 stallholders, light installations, an ice rink and Christmas light maze.
Where to stay Loews Hotel 1000 is an elegant, contemporary hotel between Enchant and central Seattle. Doubles from €234.
Get there Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Seattle from €386 return.
8. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich train station houses the largest indoor Christmas market in Europe; it also features a 15m tree dripping with 7,000 Swarovski crystals. Elsewhere, Wienachtsdorf is a contemporary Viennese-style market with upcycled wares, and between its gift, food and drink stalls, Werdmühleplatz hosts regular shows by their singing Christmas tree.
Where to stay In a pricey city, the comfortable, contemporary Leoneck Swiss Hotel is good value. The tram stops just outside. Doubles from €134.
Get there Swiss International Air Lines has return flights from Dublin to Zurich from €90.